You don't have to be Apple to sell a sleek, compact, and easy-to-use automated backup device. Seagate has taken a page from the Mac maker's playbook by announcing the Replica, an external hard drive with software that allows automatic full-system backups on Windows PCs.
The Replica looks a bit like Apple's Time Capsule, but it eschews the network component and shaves almost 200 bucks off the base price. The cheapest Replica includes a 250GB 5,400-RPM hard drive and will set you back $129.99. Seagate also offers a "multi-PC" version with a dock and a 500GB hard drive for $199.99. Since the hard drive maker has omitted networking, you'll have to do your backups over a plain old USB 2.0 connection—not exactly the speediest route.
Still, Seagate claims the Replica is very easy to use: "simply plug in a single USB cable, click OK, and you're backed up — no tedious installation, nothing to configure." The built-in software apparently works with both Windows XP and Windows Vista, and it "continuously stores up-to-date copies of everything on your PC, including the operating system, programs and settings." If somethig goes wrong, you should be able to restore your system to its previous state.
Look for Replica "backup appliances" to start popping onto store shelves (and in e-tail listings) next month. Incidentally, Seagate says it covers the hard drives in these things with a five-year warranty.